UCL-UCU: MAB Update & Meeting - Reporting participation, challenging the UCL deductions & EGM Thurs

24 April 2023

An update on the Marking and Assessment Boycott and UCL’s approach to it

When Mohammed is paid for marking, he is allocated 4 days at UCL in his workload allocation model. When his pay is deducted for not marking, he is suddenly allocated 36.5 days for his marking. #UCURising #UCLValuingStaff

Please see the information below on deductions, what you can do when faced with UCL’s punitive approach, how we are supporting members participating in the MAB.

We are holding an Emergency General Meeting next Thursday 27 April, 1-2pm, to discuss a potential escalation of industrial action in response. 

1. Reporting participation in MAB

UCL HR are insisting that staff report their intention to boycott by Friday 28 April. UCU opposes this demand. The Government says you do not need to report your participation in industrial action until you have actually done so. 

If someone with marking due in June decides in May that they would like to participate in the MAB, then they have every right to participate at that time, and do not have to make their mind up before that. People cannot be punished for not making up their mind any earlier.

Moreover, we don’t believe the pay deductions UCL is threatening to make are lawful.

UCL plans to deduct at least 36.5 days of salary. This is blatantly disproportionate for everyone, and even more invidious for some. 

50% deductions over the next few months, 36.5 days, is around 0.1FTE, or 160 hours. Staff with substantial marking responsibilities and detailed workload allocation models are allocated 0.01-0.04 FTE for total marking duties year-round. But UCL proposes to deduct 10% of annual salary from anyone who participates in the boycott, whatever the extent of their participation. This could be just one single in-person assessment, such as upgrade or thesis vivas, or other kinds of oral examinations in arts, design, engineering, or languages. Docking 50% of several months’ pay for not participating in one single assessment is an egregious, explicitly punitive approach.

This attack is on all of us. We all have to resist.

2. Challenging the UCL deductions

On Wednesday, UCU reps met with UCL HR and asked them to reconsider their absurd plan for this ‘flat rate’ deduction for everyone who participates in the MAB. UCL told us they had already decided this is what they were going to do, and within five minutes of the meeting ending, HR had emailed all staff. 

At Queen Mary University of London last year, staff boycotted marking for 4 months and in the end had 21 days of pay deducted. UCL is proposing to deduct nearly twice that.

Meanwhile Ulster, London Met and Oxford have announced… 0% deductions.

UCL senior management think they can get away with this.

It is in our power to stop them.

We need to get organised.

  • Join our Emergency General Meeting on Thursday April 27, 1-2 pm where we will be discussing whether to go on strike in protest at UCL’s plans.

  • Sign our Open Letter to Michael Spence: https://forms.gle/qpLB5yuKLRHKimZv6

  • Speak to your local UCU rep and organise a departmental meeting to discuss strategy. We need to ensure maximum disruption while minimising people's exposure and protecting our most vulnerable colleagues. Think about where the marking and assessment ‘choke points’ are at a local level, and ask your colleagues not to cover for other people, or take on other people’s work.

  • Organise an Open Letter to your Head of Department in support of the boycott (HoDs are already coming under huge pressure to identify potential MAB participants [basically a blacklist] and organise strike-breaking).

  • Organise a meeting with students to discuss the boycott. We want to end this boycott by winning the dispute – for our sake but also for theirs.

3. Building the Boycott

The best way to show UCL we won’t be intimidated, and to win a pay offer we can actually afford to live on, is to continue building the boycott.

We are setting up a Solidarity Pledge scheme so that, even if UCL keep going with their appalling plan, we can stand together and protect people joining the boycott. This means asking you to pledge a regular payment to our local hardship fund of half a day’s pay each week (after tax):

  • For every 6 people who can donate half a day’s pay each week (5.2 days of pay in total), we can cover 1 person to join the MAB so that those 7 people share the cost.

This will be coordinated centrally. We will circulate a form early next week, asking people to pledge either to take part in the MAB directly or to support the MAB through donations. Please look out for that email!

See you all next Thursday at 1pm!

UCL UCU Executive Committee